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Leo Robert Klein

Leo Robert Klein is a Web Coordinator for CUNY. He started in libraries, the Internet arrived, he ended up blending them. Very well too.

About you

What did you do before the Web?

My background is in the humanities. After getting my B.A. from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1980, I basically spent the rest of the Eighties running around Europe first in Paris, then Rome and finally Berlin. I went to the Sorbonne and also the Freie Universitaet (Berlin). I lived in a squat in Berlin (Kreuzberg) and was part of a performance/music group called the Wonderful Guise. The group included Tony Millionaire (maakies.com) and Mark "Stew" Stewart (negroproblem.com) among others. It was a great time. For money, I did construction. I also did a lot of studying -- history, literature, decorative arts -- for the Classical period, the Renaissance and the 18th Century.

After about ten years in Europe, I started getting homesick. My family had moved from Chicago to New York while I was away so I headed to New York. At first it was extremely difficult -- it was hard getting established; I couldn't find a job; and I was completely broke. Most of the time when I wasn't sending out resumes, I was in the library doing research -- I think I was studying U.S. Labor History at the time. Anyway, it kind of dawned on me that if I was looking for a job, I might as well start looking in a place I was spending most of my time anyway. Eventually the kind people in the Humanities and General Reference Department at NYU Bobst Library took me in.

How did you find the web?

That's just it. This was the early Nineties and being in a university like NYU was the right place to get in on the web early on. Most of our library's material had been done in Gopher. Almost immediately after putting this in Gopher, we converted the material to HTML. This was in 1994.

I liked the web because I was handy with scripting -- I had cut my teeth on MS Excel macros. Also I loved all kinds of media -- I was the photographer of my high school's newspaper. I made Super8 movies. I was messing with Photoshop 2.5. It all came together in the web.

Meanwhile I had graduated from simple HTML writer to "Web Coordinator" at NYU's library. From there I went to my current position at Baruch College, CUNY, running the digital operations for the library there. I also picked up a masters in Library Science from Queens College, CUNY, and a masters in Digital Media from NYU along the way.

Why are you here?

Well, because I get to do a little of this and a little of that and I can be technical and arty at the same time.

Methods of production

What do you use to create your sites?

Fireworks, some Photoshop. I used to use Photoshop a bit more and still do where I have to do weird channel tricks but more and more I like the vector integration in Fireworks. For coding, I use Dreamweaver and HomeSite. I also do a fair amount of streaming media. For that I use Premiere, Media Cleaner -- sometimes After Effects depending on the project. For streaming I use Real. I also use Flash and Director every once and a while.

About the Web

What do you see as the greatest strengths of the web?

Lowering the bar to publishing. This is the most important feature. Institutions of all kinds and individuals can broadcast their material in a way that formerly was impossible to do. We're putting up exhibits at the library that might have gone on a wall and in glass cases for 6 months and afterwards would never be heard from again. Now we put them online and a whole other audience can access them. Each institution then -- each individual -- has information, artwork, etc. that is unique. The web makes it possible to share this material in a way that significantly enhances our shared experience on this earth. That's major.

What do you see as the greatest dangers?

So much of the creative process consists of rearranging the ducks already existing in new and original ways. You're going to run into difficulties however, if only one sector of our society -- namely the corporate sector -- controls those ducks and will only let you play around with them in ways it chooses. This is just so dangerous, not simply for the web but for our cultural and intellectual environment as a whole.

What would you say to folks who want to work the web?

Like most things, do this because you like it and because it's fun.

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